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Nicky Morgan - Department for Education

I have today written to the head teacher at the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, Kent, to confirm that I have approved their proposal to expand on to a new site in Sevenoaks, Kent.

It is this Governments policy that all good and outstanding schools should be able to expand to offer excellent places to local students. The Weald of Kent Grammar School is one of the top performing schools in the country, with 99% of its students achieving five A*-C grades in GCSE exams in 2014, and 98% of sixth form students achieving at least 3 A-Levels at grades A*-E.

The Weald of Kent Grammar School submitted a proposal for expansion in 2013. At that stage the then Secretary of State could not approve the proposal as an expansion because the proposal at that time was for a mixed sex annexe when the existing school was single sex. The school submitted a revised proposal in September 2015 under which girls will be educated on both sites alongside a mixed sex sixth form. I am satisfied that this proposal represents a genuine expansion of the existing school, and that there will be integration between the two sites in terms of leadership, management, governance, admissions and curriculum. I am also satisfied that the excellent quality of learning currently delivered will be replicated across the newly expanded school. I welcome the fact that the newly expanded school will better meet the needs of parents in the local area, with 41% of existing pupils at the Weald of Kent Grammar School already travelling from the Sevenoaks area.

The school expects to be able to start educating pupils at its new Sevenoaks site from September 2017.

My decision in this case has been taken on the basis of the proposal from the Weald of Kent, in line with legislation and criteria determining what constitutes an expansion. It does not reflect a change in this Governments position on selective schools. Rather it reaffirms our view that all good schools should be able to expand, a policy which is vital to meet the significant increase in demand for pupil places in coming years. Further applications from good selective schools to expand will continue to be considered within the framework of the statutory prohibition on new selective schools and would have to meet the criteria for being a genuine expansion.


Mr Patrick McLoughlin - Department for Transport

The UK was represented at official level at the informal Transport Council held under the Luxembourg Presidency (The Presidency) on Wednesday 7 October 2015.

The theme of the informal Transport Council was cycling as a mode of transport. The main agenda item was the Presidencys proposal for a Declaration of Ministers on cycling as a climate-friendly Transport Mode.

The Declaration called upon the Commission to integrate cycling into multi-modal transport policy, develop an EU-level strategic document and set up a European focal point on cycling. It also set out some action points for Member States which included for example, the designation of a national focal point for cycling and for national transport infrastructure projects to focus on strengthening cycling networks.

The UK outlined the importance of cycling in the UK, and the range of economic and health benefits it brings. Support was offered for other Member State views on establishing national and European focal points for exchanging best practice. The UK welcomed the fact that road safety and smart mobility were referenced, as addressing behavioural matters is a key aspect of encouraging people to cycle. The UK also highlighted the importance of respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the fact that cycling is a devolved matter and so is best managed on a national and regional level.


Nick Boles - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

On behalf of the Government, I am today announcing that we have published a response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) welcoming their report and recommendations in respect of the super - complaint made by Which? alleging pricing malpractice in the groceries market.

The Government is pleased to see the CMA do not consider there to be a systemic problem in the grocery market in how retailers present prices . We also welcome CMAs plans to take action where they have identified examples of potentially misleading and confusing practices. The CMA did find however that more could be done to reduce the complexity in unit pricing to make it a more useful comparison tool for consumers.

Addressing the recommendation concerning price promotions and special offers the Chartered Trading Standards Institute is today publishing their consultation on a revised Pricing Practices Guide. BIS will consult later in the autumn on proposals to simplify and improve unit pricing to help the consumer compare prices more easily across similar products and therefore identify the best deals. We will continue to work closely with Which? CTSI, retailers and supermarkets, including through the BIS Expert Working Group, and welcome continued input from the CMA.


Sajid Javid - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

My written statement of 25 June provided an update on work to move UK Green Investment Bank plc (GIB) into private ownership. It was always our intention that GIB should mobilise maximum private investment in the green economy. This reflects our policy aim of getting the market to work in tackling green policy challenges.

Bringing private ownership directly into GIB is part of this aim and a natural next step for the company now it has proved itself a successful commercial enterprise capable of operating with private sector capital rather than relying on public funding for its investments. It will allow the bank to access a much greater volume of capital than would be the case if GIB were to remain in Government ownership meaning it can grow its business, move into a wider range of sectors and have greatest possible impact in mobilising investment so that more green projects get financed more quickly than would otherwise be the case. The plans have the full support of the company and its independent Board, including Chair, Lord Smith of Kelvin.

As I said in my previous statement, a key objective in moving the company into the private sector is that it should be free to borrow and raise capital without this affecting public sector net debt. Giving GIB this freedom is essential if the company is to invest in accordance with its ambitious green business plan.

It is now clear that to achieve
re-classification of GIB as a private sector enterprise, we need to remove the public sector controls imposed on the company by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. Unless we remove these controls, there is a real risk GIB would remain classified to the public sector even after a sale so would remain subject to Government control over its capital raising. This unintended effect of the legislation has only become apparent in the course of our work to facilitate GIBs transition into the private sector.

In view of this, as a necessary part of the privatisation process, we now propose to use the Enterprise Bill, through an amendment shortly to be tabled at the Lords Committee stage, to repeal the relevant sections of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 relating to GIB.

I recognise that in taking this step, people will wish to be assured GIB will nevertheless continue to invest in green sectors as Parliament envisaged. I wish to make clear that the Government also wants and expects a privately owned GIB to continue this clear focus on green sectors - mobilising more private capital and further accelerating the transition to a green economy.

It is clear from preliminary feedback that potential investors are interested in acquiring a stake in GIB precisely because of its unique green specialism and its green focused business plan. As part of any sale process, we would expect potential investors to confirm their commitment to GIBs green values and to set out how they propose to ensure these are protected.

I will provide further updates about the transaction as soon as possible.


Mr Patrick McLoughlin - Department for Transport

The Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick Mcloughlin): I attended the first formal Transport Council meeting under the Luxembourg Presidency (The Presidency) on Thursday 8 October 2015.

The Council unanimously agreed general approaches on two proposals which form the market pillar of the Fourth Railway Package: the proposal amending Directive 2012/34 establishing a Single European Railway Area, and the proposal amending Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 concerning the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail. The general approach texts mandate competitive tendering for public service contracts as a rule, but with several derogations to allow for direct awards in certain circumstances. I welcomed the efforts of the Presidency to progress the Fourth Railway Package, and set out the great success of rail liberalisation in our domestic market. I thanked the Presidency for the provision allowing directly awarded contracts in exceptional circumstances, but expressed my disappointment in the changes to the texts allowing these in wider cases. I put forward the view that this had limited the ambitions of the market pillar and would lessen competition. However, along with all other Member States I recognised the positive steps towards liberalisation that had been made and in the spirit of compromise supported the general approach. The Presidency expressed their ambition to engage swiftly in trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and conclude negotiations on the Package.

The Council held a policy debate on the review of the Commissions 2011 White Paper on Transport. I agreed that the objectives set in 2011 are still largely relevant and their importance in ensuring that Transport remains a key driver for growth and the single market. I welcomed the Commissions commitment to Better Regulation and REFIT, and emphasised the need for EU initiatives to be targeted, proportionate and effective. I also highlighted the opportunity and challenges that digitalisation poses for the EU.

Over lunch there was a debate on cross-border cooperation in rail security following the Thalys incident in August. I put forward my support for the exchange of best practice between Member States and transport operators, rather than any legislative initiative.

The Presidency provided an update on the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the transport infrastructure investment opportunities available. Some Member States made limited interventions to welcome the long term investment opportunities and the ability to combine with other financing streams and one Member State expressed opposition to the use of private investment in long-term infrastructure projects.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission provided an update on new emissions testing procedures and the state of play on the real driving emissions tests. The Commission reiterated the three main actions following the Volkswagen situation: investigations being carried out in Member States, the Real Driving Emissions proposal, and in the future revisions to type approval legislation. The Commission asked all Member States to respond to proposals. Germany gave a comprehensive update on domestic action, and I along with other Member States welcomed the Commissions call for domestic investigations. I also expressed our support for the Real Driving Emissions proposals and stressed that independent and accurate tests were key to restoring confidence amongst consumer and environmentalist groups.

Also under Any Other Business, the Presidency provided an update on the outcome of the informal Transport Council on Wednesday 7 October and the Declaration on cycling.

I was also able to hold bilateral discussions with my EU counterparts from Germany and the Czech Republic to discuss the VW emissions situation. I also met the Dutch Transport Secretary to discuss their preparation and priorities for the forthcoming Dutch Presidency.


Mr Shailesh Vara - Ministry of Justice

In the last financial year HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) collected over 550m of fines, other financial impositions, fixed penalties and orders, and that money has helped to fund vital services for taxpayers.

To build on this work, in July 2013 my department began a procurement competition for a new provider of criminal court compliance and enforcement services, and a preferred bidder was identified in January 2015.

Following re-consideration of the departments requirements, we have decided that outsourcing these services to a single supplier is not the best option for HM Courts and Tribunals Service. This decision is based on the need to ensure that any contract we let completely meets our requirements, provides best value for the taxpayer and complies with procurement law.

Ministers have set out the importance of reforming HMCTS to provide a modern and efficient service for society. Improving compliance and enforcement services will continue to form a key part of that work. We believe that in house modernisation is the best option for HMCTS.

 


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